“LIVING with my foster carer, I went from being scared and anxious to actually laughing out loud. She made me proud to be me.”

“My foster family made me believe I could do anything and now I’m studying to be a social worker. They made me who I am today.”

These are just two comments from young people who have lived with Health and Social Care (HSC) fostering families. Now, a new radio advertisement is bringing their words to life in the hope that more local people will consider fostering teenagers.

HSC social worker Karen McQuillan says that there is a particular need for foster carers for teenagers:

“Recent events have meant a higher number of young people than usual are urgently in need of foster families. The adolescent years can be difficult for most, however, for adolescents who cannot live with their birth families the challenges are often increased. Many have been feeling the impact even more during the Covid-19 pandemic. HSC Foster Care is currently experiencing a significant shortage of individuals and families who can offer caring, supportive homes to teenagers and we are asking everyone to think about whether they might be able to help a young person.

“You don’t need any specific experience or knowledge to foster adolescents but it is important that you enjoy the company of young people and have the motivation, time and resilience to provide them with care and support.  Building relationships with and understanding this age group is key.  Fostering a young person can be both challenging and immensely rewarding’’.

25-year-old Evelyn Bevan from Belfast lived with her foster carers Jackie and Len from the age of 15. Evelyn now works as a Support Worker with Belfast HSC Trust and describes herself as having become "a totally different person" as the result of living with her foster family.

"I have always felt very much included in my foster family. There were three of us in foster care, all unrelated. Being in foster care gave me confidence and security and I know that it made me a better person. It made me value my life more.

"I know my foster carers had to deal with some rebellious behaviour from me. For someone who is considering becoming a foster carer I would say that it is not a straight road. It takes time and effort but go for it. You will be helping someone to be the person they want to be and to build that confidence.”

HSC Foster Care is encouraging more people to consider fostering adolescents. You do not need any specific experience or qualifications, but it is important that you like the company of young people, you are patient and flexible and have a realistic expectation of the level of commitment involved.  Financial allowances are available in some circumstances.

If you want to make an extraordinary difference to child or young person who needs a brighter future call 0800 0720 137 or search HSC Northern Ireland Adoption and Foster Care to get started.